Your Job Listing Is Riddled With Red Flags. Here Are the 5 Most Common

Let’s set it straight: job listings or job ads are in fact job advertisements. Yet many don’t quite see it this way and so not surprisingly, businesses create job listings that fail to effectively sell candidates on a job. As straightforward as a job ad might seem, it speaks volumes to potential candidates. But businesses are often blind to the red flags and deaf to what their listings are really saying.

As we trudge deeper into the ‘Great Resignation’ and hiring struggles persist across the nation, there are a few very simple, yet wildly overlooked reasons job ads fail to attract great candidates. Let’s look at the five most common red flags that you might unknowingly be waving.  

Red Flag #1. Not listing the salary range 

It’s almost ridiculous to have to say, and yet most job listings fail to include salary information. And to candidates there’s one glaring reason many don’t: they’re not proud of what they have to offer. If you’re hiding something, there’s a reason for it–and you can’t hide from that fact. Speaking of facts, salary is the most important part of a job ad, according to research from the world’s largest HR professional organization, SHRM.  

So stop saying you offer a “competitive” salary. Every employer is convinced that they offer a competitive salary for what the role entails. But the word is incredibly subjective, and candidates know this. Instead of saying it’s competitive, just say what it is. This will show potential candidates just how competitive your salary is (or not). And in return, it will effectively eliminate applicants who would not be willing to take on the role for your budgeted pay. 

Red Flag #2. You use obscure (a.k.a. creative) job titles

In an effort to boost employees’ egos, employers started inflating job titles decades ago–and they haven’t stopped. These creative, and even quirky, job titles aren’t doing you or your staff any favors. In fact,  as fun as these obscure titles might sound to a business, they’re confusing to everyone outside of it. And I’m not just talking about reverting back the titles like, “Chief Happiness Officer” to what it is–a Human Resources Manager.  

For example, people aren’t searching for a job in sales are going to be scanning job boards for words like, well, “sales. What isn’t going to catch their eyes is a title like “Lead Conversion Strategist.” Just as a seasoned receptionist is probably going to overlook the job listing titled “Director of First Impressions,” as it appears to be a c-level role. Businesses need to stop using inflated job titles in general, but if you’re committed to your whimsical titles, use them as in-house nicknames and out of your job application. 

Red Flag #3. Your role requirements are inaccurate  

In an attempt to get more applicants, companies are lowering the bar in terms of role requirements. And yet, in reality, while they fudged their listed requirements, they’re not actually looking to budge on them. In short, if you want a seasoned professional with a master’s degree and 10 years of experience, you should just say so. 

Sure, there could be tons of people who would be great in the role without these qualifications. But as long as you’re fielding applicants using resumes and cover letters, you’ll likely never know who might actually be a great fit. Instead of helping you save time in the hiring process, you will waste more time going through seemingly unqualified candidates–only making it more difficult to find the needle in the haystack. 

Red Flag #4. You fail to include what you’re looking for 

For most positions, there’s one essential skill you’re hiring for–but not interviewing for. And that’s because it’s not something you will see on a resume. While the average job description includes a list of hard skills, many fail to share the soft skills that the success of a role relies on. When aspects, such as personality, interests, and character traits can make or break a candidate’s candidacy, businesses need to make what they’re looking for clear. 

For example, Warren Buffet says he won’t hire someone without this one trait. Or, take a company that is hiring a business development representative and the company that is headquartered in Hong Kong. The reality is that the role requires a great deal of flexibility in terms of working hours–which is what a typical job listing might say. But what is fails to say is what it’s actually looking for: a night owl who would be happier working at midnight than midday. 

Red Flag #5. You ask for a cover letter

Finally, there’s the dreaded cover letter, that if we’re honest, largely regurgitates a resume. What businesses should be using instead are a few of the most common interview questions. Because you don’t need to wait for the interview to ask questions. Ask the right questions upfront. This way you can more easily weed through applicants, and more effectively find the best ones to invite for an interview.

It’s a win-win for businesses and applicants, as no one wants to write a cover letter–just as no one wants to read them either. 

Businesses looking to attract candidates that are a great fit need to start creating great job listings. The key to finding top talent–and finding the next Steve Jobs–isn’t just in knowing where to look, but in knowing how you look. Because you can’t eliminate the red flags if you can’t see them.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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